Merton Council is asking all parents in its schools to check their eligibility for free school meals.
The move follows the government’s launch earlier this month of the new pupil premium of £430 per pupil per year.
Currently, 2,807 pupils take advantage of free school meals in Merton, but Merton estimates that there are many more pupils who could benefit from the service. Merton has one of the lowest take-ups in comparison with its more prosperous neighbouring boroughs. If parents of those pupils currently not registered for free school meals sign up for the service through the council’s school admissions office, Merton’s schools would receive many thousands of pounds in total to spend on new school equipment, books or extra teachers.
Registering eligibility for free school meals can be done in one simple step, either by visiting Merton’s website at http://www.merton.gov.uk/freemeals, going straight to the form https://forms.merton.gov.uk/af3/an/default.aspx/RenderForm/?F.Name=XzV627wZQX9 or by calling 020 8274 4906. Application forms are also available from the Civic Centre in Morden and from schools.
Children are eligible for free school meals if their parents or carers receive any of the following benefits:
1. Income support
2. Income-based Job Seekers’ Allowance
3. Child Tax Credit
4. Guarantee Pension credit
5. National Asylum Support Service (NASS) cards and immigration papers
Parents in receipt of a Tax Credit Decision Notice for Working Tax Credit for the newly unemployed can also register.
Merton Council cabinet member for education Councillor Peter Walker said:
“We are asking parents to check if they are eligible for free school meals because this is a fantastic opportunity for them to save hundreds of pounds per year while ensuring their children eat healthily at school. In addition to this, the greater the number of Merton parents who register their eligibility, the more money Merton schools will receive from the government to spend on things like new computers and books as well as recruiting more teachers and teaching assistants. Registering eligibility for free school meals means you help yourself as well as the whole school.
“We recognise the importance of healthy school lunches. Research shows that healthy eating at lunch time improves pupils’ learning performance in the classroom and results in better behaviour during the afternoons. This means an improved learning environment for all and greater success for the future.”*
*Source of research: University of Hull; Kingston-upon-Hull evaluation of the Eat Well Do Well FSM initiative as reported in the School Food Trust publication: Please Sir? Can we have some more? – lessons from Free School Meal initiatives; p18: http://www.schoolfoodtrust.org.uk/school-cooks-caterers/reports/please-sir-can-we-have-some-more